Dr. Richard Lester, Executive Director
Richard Lester is the executive director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, and a clinical professor in the Department of Management at Mays Business School.
Lester graduated with his BS from Wright State University, earned his Executive MBA from the University of Houston and received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Texas A&M University in 2003.
His current research interests focus on corporate governance, upper echelons, and entrepreneurship. Prior to his academic career, Lester spent 25 years working primarily at oil and gas-related firms. His last corporate position was vice president and general manager in Houston, Texas.
Blake Petty, Director
Blake Petty is the director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Petty received his bachelor’s from Texas A&M in ’98 and his master’s in 2000. After graduating from A&M, he worked in administrative positions at the university and Texas A&M System, including a 10-year stint in the Office of Technology Commercialization.
Most recently, Petty served as assistant vice president of Research and coordinated all Innovation, Industry Relations and Business Development initiatives at Texas A&M. He also facilitated commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities for the campus and its faculty researchers. In addition, he served as a founding partner in the launch of Startup Aggieland.
Don Lewis, Executive Professor, Director, Blackstone LaunchPad
Don Lewis has been an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Management at Mays Business School since 1999. Lewis is general partner and major shareholder in several real estate businesses. He received his BBA (Management) ’86 and MBA (IT) ’92 from Texas A&M and Texas A&M International University, respectively.
Prior to his academic career, Lewis spent several years in Europe and then in Bryan College Station working as an entrepreneur. He is the recipient of the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence, International Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship, Newman 10 award for one of the 10 fastest-growing businesses in Bryan College Station and is involved in a number of service roles in the local community. Lewis is married and has two children, Megan and Kylan. His areas of interest include issues in entrepreneurial and small business education and international business.
Shanna Spencer, Assistant Director
Shanna Spencer is the Assistant Director for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. She joined the center in 2013 as a Program Coordinator and was promoted to Program Manager in 2015. Shanna’s responsibilities include the planning and implementation of many of the Center’s programs and events, as well as developing new programs to meet the needs of our entrepreneurial students. She has also served as a Teaching Assistant with the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Program.
Shanna graduated with her BS in Kinesiology from Texas A&M in 2003. After graduation, she worked as a marketing coordinator for Conference USA in Irving. She returned to Texas A&M and earned her MS in Kinesiology in 2007. As a graduate student, Shanna worked for Texas A&M Sports Properties, and continued in a full time role as the promotions coordinator upon graduation.
LauraLee Hughes, Assistant Director, New Ventures
LauraLee Hughes serves as Assistant Director, New Ventures for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Prior to joining the Center, she served as Executive Director for the Office of Technology Translation at the Texas A&M Division of Research and at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, where she led efforts related to technology commercialization and product development, including management of the university’s IP portfolio for health, life and physical sciences. Previously, LauraLee worked at the Texas A&M University System Office of Strategic Initiatives as a key technical and project manager for multiple research and development initiatives related to biodefense and medical countermeasure development. Representative projects include the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Blue Angel Program, and the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing.
She has co-authored proposals that have resulted in over $380M in State and federal funding. LauraLee is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she earned her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Biochemistry and Genetics, a Master of Biotechnology, and a Graduate Certificate in Business. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for multiple early-stage TAMHSC startup companies and is a graduate of the Leadership Texas Class of 2014.
Chuck Hinton, Director, NSF I-Corps
Chuck Hinton is responsible for promotion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program. I-Corps prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory, and broaden the impact of select NSF-funded basic research projects.
Hinton leads the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s efforts as part of the Southwest I-Corps Node, one of seven national partnerships of universities funded by NSF to support I-Corps expansion. Texas A&M University, along with UT-Austin, Rice University and Texas Tech University, share responsibilities for promotion of this high-impact program and recruitment of I-Corps Team applicants.
Hinton received two degrees from Texas A&M: a bachelor’s degree in business in 1976 and an MBA in 1978. After a successful career in natural gas exploration/drilling/production, Hinton more recently became familiar with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship as a volunteer mentor working with entrepreneurial students at Startup Aggieland. While leading efforts to recruit and train mentors for their student programs, Hinton developed a deep understanding and appreciation for Startup Aggieland’s Lean Launch Methodology – which shares the same principals applied in I-Corps training.
Sophia Bishop, Program Coordinator, Blackstone LaunchPad
Sophia Bishop serves as the program coordinator for Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars, a program of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, she ensure the terms of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation grant are met and that Texas A&M entrepreneurship initiatives are communicated to our Aggie stakeholders. Sophia works to organize and develop programs that will grow the entrepreneurial mindset of Aggies across campus and in the community.
Sophia earned her BBA in Business Honors and Marketing from Texas A&M in December 2016. As an undergraduate, Sophia was on the student planning team for the Blackstone LaunchPad Program, Startup Aggieland, and numerous marketing student organizations. She currently serves as an adviser for the Student Business Owners Association, a new student organization started by students from multiple McFerrin Center programs.
Stephanie Burns, Communications Coordinator
Stephanie Burns is the Communications Coordinator for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, Stephanie is responsible for marketing, social media, web design and other duties related to The McFerrin Center’s communications strategy.
Stephanie has had the pleasure of working at Texas A&M University since graduating from the University in 2014 with a BA in English Literature and a minor in French. She formerly worked as a Program Specialist for the College of Engineering’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. She currently serves as the staff advisor for Alpha Zeta Chi, a women’s organization at Texas A&M University. She also serves as a leadership coach for the Maroon and White fellows program. Stephanie is passionate about social media analytics, brand strategy and a good cup of tea.
Audrey Fadal, Program Coordinator
Audrey Fadal serves as the Program Coordinator for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, where she will assist in the planning and preparation for the many programs led by the McFerrin Center. Audrey graduated from Texas A&M University in 2017 with her BA in Communication. After graduation, she worked as Wine Club Coordinator for Messina Hof Winery & Resort in Bryan, TX, and she joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship team in April 2018.
Audrey has experience working with students and planning events after her involvement in campus organizations when in school, as well as in her role at Messina Hof. She enjoys being back on the Texas A&M campus, with plans to reach many future, current, and former students through the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.
Marlena Brudeseth, Student Assistant- Events
Marlena Brudeseth is a Senior from Round Rock, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Agricultural Communication and Journalism. She was a intern for the startup application JERRi during the spring 2018 semester, and joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in July 2018. Marlena is also a member of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority.
Brooklyn Bowden, Student Assistant- Events
Brooklyn Bowden is a junior from Corpus Christi, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Sport Management and a double minor in Business and Communications. She was a member of Freshmen Leaders in Progress (FLiP) and Aggie Sweethearts her freshmen year, served as Sweethearts Philanthropy Chair her sophomore year, and is now serving on the Recruitment team. Brooklyn is also a counselor for Fish Camp 2019.
Natalie Stewart, Student Assistant- Events
Natalie Stewart is a Junior from Georgetown, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Business Management with a minor in Economics. She joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in January 2019. Natalie is also a member of Alpha Chi Omega Sorority, Aggie Belles, and a chair for Fish Camp 2019.
Macy Orman, Student Assistant- Events
Macy Orman is a student assistant for the McFerrin Center of Entrepreneurship where she helps organize and prepare for upcoming events. She is currently a freshman at Texas A&M University and plans to pursue a degree in Business Honors and Finance. Prior to college, Macy gained experience in event planning and coordinating through leadership roles in student government and other various clubs. She looks forward to becoming involved in new organizations throughout college and is excited to work alongside people who share a similar passion for entrepreneurship.